Over the past few years, as I have had more time to cook, I have been conscious of a burning desire to not waste food. This is a recurring issue for most people generally now for many reasons, some of which include:
- Global wastage of food and environmental impact of that
- Starving millions on a planet where there COULD be enough for people’s need, but not for people’s greed
- Cost of living increases
I read in the paper the other day that one of the main reason so much food is wasted in this country is that people don’t know what to do with leftover anything- fruit, veg, protein- if they don’t know or can’t find a recipe that uses those exact things. Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, this was me. Somehow the knowledge of how to use what we have and “make it up as you go along” has vanished from the collective consciousness when it comes to food. I clicked on the comments to see what others had said and found a little letter from an elderly reader who said how she had been making the same soup almost every day for over 60 years. Her sister had taught her how to do it when she was just a girl. It was so simple that I had to have a go. In her daily soup, she starts with these ingredients:
- 1 potato
- 1 carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 onion
- small handful of red lentils
She chops them small (start with the onion, celery next) and sweats them in a pan with a knob of butter or other fat. You really don’t need to measure this. About as much as is on the wooden knife in the picture. I trickle just a smidge of olive oil on top of that as it helps to stop the butter from burning. In the picture here you will see that there is no potato in the pan but there IS a dish of leftover mashed potato. That will go into the pan in a bit. Give it all a stir to cover lightly in the fat and then put the lid on to soften a bit. Ten minutes? Low-ish heat? Then cover with water or stock if you have it. Stick the potatoes in and stir. Add the lentils after you given them a quick swish under the tap in a sieve. They add cheap protein to the soup and added thickening as well.
What size/amounts of those ingredients? It really doesn’t matter. The taste of the daily soup will change delightfully as a results of a larger or smaller example of any of those items listed.
I do make stock and that tale will be for another post. Yes, it’s a bit of a faf but what home made stock can do for the taste of dishes keeps me coming back to make it again and again.
You may need to adjust the liquid to make your soup the thickness you like, so err on too thick to start with as it can be a one way street. More water always works. It now only takes about 10-15 minutes to cook with a lid on. I blitz it with a stick blender in the pan when I have checked the lentils and potatoes (if using from raw) are soft. Taste for seasoning. When it needs something and you just don’t know what, my stand by is Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder. You can get it everywhere and a little goes a long way. I would use about 1/2 tsp to season this amount of soup. Do taste things as you go along. Cooking is a process that needs thoughtful participation.
If you have stuck with me this far, right about now you may be asking yourself why I didn’t just open a tin? Sure, it’s faster, but a tin of soup doesn’t go far -my husband and I need one each, and the ones that don’t just taste of swamp water are not so cheap.
If you make it yourself you have control over what goes into your food- one of the prime motivations for my cooking.
Home cooked food tastes good-the very most important motivation for my cooking.
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I could eat soup every day. I just open the fridge and start cleaning it out. Chop and sauté an onion, add leftovers and homemade stock. Voilà. Soup.
Yes, indeedy! That’s why I call it Refrigerator Surprise Soup.